[updated July 3rd, 2017]
When speaking and acting against racist injustice I've come to realize that it's very important to keep in mind three important facts:
- Rulers, for centuries, have used the strategy of divide & conquer to further entrench their power and control. By having the people turn against each other, those in power, who are often the very cause of the conflict, are not blamed. Not only are they not blamed, they, and the institutions of slavery that they impose on the population, are even sought to solve the problem, to bring justice to the very thing that they created. This is a sad irony, an irony that undoubtedly makes rulers laugh with arrogance at the tears and blood of those they oppress. Their power would be useless without control, and one big way they reinforce their control is through the people they control actually asking to be more controlled.
- Divisive lies don't serve social-justice (or anything good in the world), rather they serve the aforementioned powers-that-be. Lies are actually the main tool of evil in the world (most people wouldn’t support evil if they believed it was evil, the two biggest examples being statism and carnism considered acceptable); lies misdirect good-intentioned people from ever discovering real truth and real solutions. This being so, it's critical that social-justice activists acknowledge falsehood, making sure that they aren't incorporating any lies into their activism.
- Race is defined as: "Any of the different varieties of human beings, distinguished by physical traits; any distinct group of people." Putting that together we have the idea that there are distinct groupings of people, that are distinguished by their physical characteristics. Ethnicity on the other hand, is defined as: "A designated group of people having common customs, characteristics, language, etc." In other words, the general grouping of peoples are distinguished as of different ethnicity by non-physical characteristics.
Keeping those points in mind, I'd like to focus on an element that has been nefariously mixed into social-justice activism, and that is the idea that, on a biological/physiological basis, distinct human races actually exist, when in fact they don't. The term race itself is actually part and parcel to racism; believing that such a thing exists is in large part the very foundation of a racist culture. You have to first believe in distinct biological races before you can believe that some of them are superior to others. When most people talk in racist ways, they are implying a biological inferiority, they are not just being critical of the different cultural/ethnic qualities (e.g. arts and language of that culture). This is a crucial point usually not talked about! Yet I know the immediate reaction this focus on the non-existence of races will often instigate, something like: "Oh you're saying that we're all one race, and so you're belittling the history of racist persecution of minorities," and/or "You're trying to derail our own narrative and dissolve our cultural identity, autonomy, and heritage, pushing assimilation into a colonial mainstream." If you're having a reaction like any of that here already, please calm down and read this article carefully, you will see I am not doing any of that. I love and respect cultural diversity, and fully recognize the reality of racism, a reality that can be very different for people of different ethnicities. So please hold off with putting words in my mouth or beliefs in my head and allow me to more fully explain myself; be open to the possibility that any immediate negative spin-off conclusions that you may already be having may actually be reactionary assumptions.
If it's technically a lie that there are such things as distinct races on a biological basis, why is this important to keep in mind? Why is it important to not condone that falsehood?
For one thing, the lie of distinct biological races supports racial injustice and statist domination of the lower classes; "Race talk" serves in large part as State propaganda. Notice after these repeated cases of police brutality there is almost no mention in the mainstream media of how the social-system itself enabled the brutality to take place, no mention of the fact that in order for there to be an abuse of power, some people have to have unnatural power in the first place (e.g. cops). Instead the media keeps it within the framework of "racial tension," tension that serves the divisive divide & conquer strategy of those that perpetuate the social-systems that enslave us all.
Additionally, as I already stated, the false belief in distinct biological races is a main motivating factor in the manifestation of racist discrimination and violence, whether committed by officials or non-officials. Many people who commit racist violence probably have a thought-process something along the lines of "They're of this inferior race who are inherently bad, so they have what's coming to them." Yet, how can one person be superior to another person on the basis of biological race, when there is no such thing as biological race? They can't! So when racist people really realize this fact, it can go a long way in eliminating their delusion. And we can support that process by making it clear when talking about racial issues that distinct biological races don't actually exist, but varying ethnicity and cultures do exist, with their unique histories. Racial discrimination is called for in the very definition of race, pushing the lie of distinct biological groupings of humans; once that erroneous distinction is made, a false hierarchy of superiority and inferiority is then usually made, i.e. the person starts thinking like a racist.
People are all fundamentally similar biologically, we are all of the same exact species. Everyone's brain is grey, everyone's blood is red, and there is no link between any moral or intellectual superiority and the relatively minor biological differences between individuals. Yes there are different blood-types and bone-marrow types, but neither of these can be linked to biological races; people in the same family, supposedly of the same "race," can and do have different blood and bone-marrow types, so pointing to either as proof of biological races is obviously completely bunk.
This is not saying that "we're all the same" in a societal sense, negating cultural differences and the obviously different histories and current realities of racist oppression and persecution. (I always find it frustrating that when I mention to someone that there's no such things as distinct races, they immediately bring up the reality of racism, as if I'm so dumb to think racism isn't real!) What this biological observation is saying is that the lie of distinct races is used to fuel the delusion of false superiority, and "justified" violent thought & action. The lie of distinct biological races fuels racism, and thereby racist violence.
Racism is of course very real, it's a real delusion many people have and act upon; in fact it's a double delusion. Firstly a delusion because it's a false belief that there are these distinct human sub-species called races, based on physical characteristics. This is clearly scientifically false, there is no actual material line between what people call White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. Again the second half of the racist delusion that follows from the first is that the "race" of oneself is superior to the other "races" (a false sense of superiority which has led to massive amounts of persecution, slavery and murder).
White Privilege & Systemic/Institutional Racism
Many people nowadays are talking at length about the issue of white privilege, but what they seem to miss is that white privilege is fundamentally just another form of racism, particularly a form of systemic racism; it's not really some totally different category of social-ill that needs to be dealt with, as it is usually presented. Think about it, when someone says "white privilege," what are they talking about? They're talking about some people being treated differently than others based on their perceived race, i.e. we're still talking about racial discrimination, but in the context of powerful institutions that are largely controlled by racist people. It's of course good to point out institutional racism, but by doing so in a way that includes a distracting and divisive lie ("People of color can't be racist."), it does nothing to actually solve the problem of institutional racism; promoting anarchism would do that, but of course we don't hear about that from these "radicals." Somehow they've left out critique of the institutions in their critique of institutional racism; making for another intellectual fail.
Striking at the Root
And so the key question is therefore "What is the best way to defeat racial discrimination?," (and I hope that's what you actually want to do, not being an unproductive drama-addict). Like with any disease, we need to find the root cause in order to cure it, rather than just trying to cure symptoms, and so, the best way is obviously by pointing to the root of racial discrimination, the foundation of the whole delusional racist mindset, which is: the lie of distinct biological races of human beings. Worth repeating again, before anyone can think their race is superior to another race they have to believe that such things as races exist in the first place! And yet I almost never hear this mentioned by "radicals" who have talks/workshops/papers, etc. on racism as white privilege; in fact, if someone brings up the issue of this foundational lie it's usually disregarded as irrelevant, "because of the reality of racism"! Hello? Anyone else see the irony here?
Of course people of the same ethnicity, with generally similar external/superficial physical characteristics, and generally the same national heritage, have been subject to particular persecutions (just as people of the same religious faith have been). That is a fact, but the idea that there really are, on a biological basis, actual distinct races, is fiction. So I am just separating fact from fiction, which there is really no good reason to be upset by (yet many are, spinning off in presumption). And the reason why I've found this separation of fact from fiction to be so important, is because of the three points I started this article with, along with the fact that any reasonable person would have to admit that this idea of distinct biological races, operating on even a subconscious basis, is very divisive in a negative way. When one starts thinking that way they are usually thinking combatively/divisively (e.g. a superiority complex), and those thoughts are usually accompanied by feelings of pride, hate, anger, fear... any number of the negative emotions, certainly no love. So, therefore, we're talking about a lie that fosters anti-love feelings. Anti-love. Lies. The devil is in the details.
Speaking of crucial details, have I ever received privilege from others who are racist because of my physical appearance. Definitely. Have I ever been treated in a racist way by a person of color? Also definitely; though of course a much less dominant experience compared to the privilege; in both cases though it's the same thing in operation: racism. But what I find amazing is when a person of color reacts to even the idea of racism coming from someone like themselves as preposterous, as if it can't even really happen! Well it does! There isn't some law of physics that prevents it from ever happening! The term “reverse racism” is used to describe such racism against people of generally European heritage, though even the term itself implies that when a person of color is racist toward a “white” person then that that's not real racism, so therefore it deserves a whole other level of a descriptor ("reverse racism"), that even just the mention of is met with immediate eye-rolling disgust by some people of color (I've seen this first-hand). A racist act is a racist act, who is committing it to who doesn't change the fact that it's a racist act; totally redefining the definition of racism is not legitimate or rational. There really isn't a fundamentally different type of racism that deserves a different name like “reverse racism,” there's just racism. Here's the quoted definition as a reminder:
rac•ism n. the practice of racial discrimination, segregation, etc.
That's it, short and simple, from the ol' Webster's dictionary. Nothing there about who's committing the racism toward who being relevant to the reality of racism, and redefining racism to mean only institutional racism, and not also one-on-one racism, as many "radical" activists have been trying to do, is not valid or rational. You can't just redefine words to exclude yourself from deplorable behavior! The idea that one-on-one racism can't come from a person of color is so obviously false I'm surprised so many people are running with this toxic idea; any time a person of color says or does something racist, that's racism. Of course the context and origins of that behavior can be completely different, like a “white” person growing up in a racist family that taught her or him they were of a superior race than people of color, vs. a person of color becoming racist because of all the terrible racist persecution that people that look like themselves have experienced. But the context and origins of an always-ignorant-and-evil-act (e.g. racism) doesn't change the fact that it's ignorant and evil. What I've observed at times is this irrational, untrue and unethical perspective that some forms of racism are okay, while others remain not okay; thinking like that is itself a completely racist mindset. To assume that discrimination, whether in the form of immediate and repeated dirty looks, immediate and consistent totally unequal treatment, racist remarks, or worse, is totally irrelevant or even nonexistent when committed against a “white” person, especially a “white” male, is just stupid uncaring bullshit.
Therefore, although this isn't an aspect of the race issue I originally felt worthy of including in this post, since like I said racism has certainly not been a personally dominant experience for myself or for others that look like myself in this country, I feel a need to mention it now because of a significant observable increase in “reverse racism” in recent years (undoubtedly fueled by the many acts of racist police brutality in these same recent years). Prior to a couple of years ago, I don't recall ever being looked at with such immediate scorn (sometimes coupled with hateful speech) by people of color I don't know (mainly politicized youth), but now it's become a somewhat regular occurrence; this along with lesser examples like definitely being “sized-up” immediately in a negative/racist fashion, and if I try to engage in a radical discussion in a friendly way, their racist revulsion is palpable, being disrespectful to me immediately for no good reason at all.
On top of that, a recent experience at the 2015 Resistance Ecology Conference showed me that if this racism is not kept in check, it just grows, and people end up spreading the very same evil that they deplore, and the divide & conquer strategy of statists goes on in new form. One of the things on the conference schedule was a “Vegans of Color-Only Meet Up,” meeting in the “Common Area” of this public university “Union” building. The irony of the location was apparently lost on the organizers, as was the fact that bringing back racial segregation in public places isn't exactly radical! (note: apparently not all the organizers were on board with this idea though, one of the conference representatives I met said she did agree with me that it wasn't a good idea when I inquired about it). The perspective that “justifies” this racial segregation is undoubtedly something along the lines of “People of color have been victimized by a brutal racist white supremacist society, and so therefore having their own space, free of the “trigger” of a white person, is an understandable requirement.” (I glean this also from the fact that the conference program also included mention that “active listening volunteers include no white men.”) So apparently in the name of accommodating a sort of PTSD condition that some people of color may have, or to "compensate" for racism by some people of European heritage, we're bringing back public racial segregation? Does the history of racism in this country (of which public segregation became the #1 policy issue in case you forgot!), make the return of racial segregation today at a public conference somehow magically legitimate? What's next, a “Colored Only” vegan bakery that refuses to allow “white” people to sit at the counter? Should we dust off and re-use the “Colored Only” signs used decades ago in the segregated South, this time their use being copacetic?! Lunacy like this is what happens when “reverse racism” (or any other lie-based behavior) goes unchecked, it inevitably grows in destructive scope. I've even heard some "radical" activists say that racism is only white supremacy, i.e. there is no other type of racism possible. That's clearly irrational and false. The reality is that anybody can be racist toward anybody, e.g. some people (that look like myself) being excluded from a public meeting at a public conference for no other reason than our physical appearance, is racist. Yes, even with the history of slavery, and all the continued racism against people of color in this country, even with privilege. And why is that? Because racial discrimination and segregation are with the very definition of racism, and because I'm an individual that's why! I'm not equivalent to every other person of similar physical appearance! And I'm certainly not a slave-master, a genocidal colonial general like George Washington, a member of the KKK, or a cop committing acts of racist violence! To generalize me as equivalent to such is absurdly ignorant and straight-up racist, no matter what "radical" way you slice it.
To be against racial profiling by police (profiling which is often accompanied by a form of preemptive attack), and then do racial profiling against people of a different body-type and heritage (e.g. European heritage), is completely hypocritical; it's practicing the same fundamental evil that you are deploring, and that complete moral contradiction shows that you've been misguided.
More irony lost on the conference organizers can be found in their “Notes on Creating a Safer Space” section of the leaflet-program, wherein they state “an inclusive space is one in which participants actively work to confront problematic behavior—whether racist, misogynist, albiest, classist, transphobic, homophobic, bullying, or just plain disrespectful.” The irony being that excluding white males from various aspects of the conference is racist and not at all an inclusive space for such individuals; they should have added to the leaflet: “(Exception: Racism and disrespect toward white males is acceptable however.)” So consider this my “active participation” toward that stated goal against racism that was asked for elsewhere in the program. The mistake of condoning the idea of biological races was made again when they also said: “Please understand that participants come from a wide-variety of backgrounds and experiences—including but not limited to gender, sexual, racial, ethnic...”; my response is please understand that by including the bunk term race alongside real categories like gender and ethnicity, by letting that divisive lie slip in, you're thereby operating on and condoning the false belief in biological races, which necessarily leads to supporting racism, as you yourselves demonstrate with the implementation of racial segregation at the conference.
The key mistake is in not differentiating between ethnicity and race, and not realizing that the latter is based on lies, specifically the lies that: a) actual distinct biological races of humanity exist (that can be utilized to generalize about people of similar heritage and physical appearance), b) that some of these so-called races really are superior or inferior to one another in some way (morally, intellectually, or whatever) and c) physical appearance and heritage are what makes a person a person. To think racial discrimination is somehow okay when directed at people of European heritage is totally ignoring that racial discrimination is, at its core, a hateful and ignorant thing to do, based on lies, and it is not enjoyable at all to be on the receiving end of. Perhaps lack of such awareness, coupled with racist thinking and behavior, has been more dominant in recent years among younger “black” people than older (something I've personally noticed), because of the media-highlighted string of recent acts of police brutality, but also because many more of the older generation personally experienced a much more severe version of racism first-hand in their everyday life than the following generation has, and so they know how evil it really is, and so are wiser than to take on a racist view themselves; they usually don't see all “white” people as the same, because they know how destructively ignorant it was for people to see and treat individuals such as themselves in a similar way. In any case all racism and racial segregation are still not good things, and it's disappointing that I even have to point that out to anybody today, let alone those putting on a radical conference.
If you're looking to do coalition/community building of any sort, like via a social-justice conference, incorporating racism/racial segregation within it accomplishes the exact opposite of that goal, public segregation and public coalition building aren't at all compatible! And that's the rub with destructive/evil lies, they aren't just false, they are the complete opposite of the truth. We need to stay alert and vigilant against such divisive lies as best as we can, so we can recognize them as soon as possible, call them out and reject them; the devil is always looking for a point of entry in the minds of humanity, and don't think he doesn't have a strategy for the radical-minded too; the evidence shows he does, and he's been successful once again. (A book recommendation on enlightening that point further: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.)Conclusion
So what language can we use that doesn’t further this divisive and propagandistic purpose? It's not that complicated, we just need to be more accurate, no longer using the term race as if such a thing really exists, and no longer limiting ourselves to simplistic and false labels like Black, White, etc. that imply the existence of distinct biological races. Why say something that supports a divisive lie? Why not use the term ethnicity instead of race, since the former doesn't contain a divisive falsehood in its definition? Why not talk of heritage or nationality instead of this nefarious and presumptuous lie called race? If we did that instead there would still be the specificity that's needed to associate with varying realities and histories of people of similar external/superficial physical characteristics and national origin, without supporting racism yourself; there can still be the honoring of the wonderful diversity of cultures, along with their disparate struggles, without pushing lies that actually serve brutal racism and tyrannical statism. Statism, also based on lies, it's worth repeating, is what enables destructive racism more than any other external thing; it continues to be the evil that diverse people of conscience should be uniting against, instead of wasting their time looking at themselves and others through a destructive lens of lies.